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Page 9

Sunday 15th June - Morning has Broken up on the Welcome

  

 

So it was that, by 6.00 a.m. I was back in the Welcome Area, enjoying another good strong cup of French coffee before returning to my vigil upon high looking over the start/finish straight.  But what a view it was!  With the cars still streaming past the pits, headlights ablaze, the scene once again took me back to those words of the Radio Le Mans commentators (who were, as always, providing a superb commentary for this race), which I recorded some years ago...


"Just stop for a minute everybody, and take a look around you and sniff the air, and just have a feel of this place.  It is fantastic isn't it?  Particularly now as the lights are down, and night's coming on, and it is just the most wonderful atmosphere in the world.  I don't think I would rather be anywhere else, and you can keep Canada, that's for sure!"

 

"I'll tell you where I would like to be, and that's on the outside of this studio, 'cos I haven't actually seen a car with it's wheels turning so far.  But, apart from that, I mean, even sitting in this little white box in the paddock, it's seeping in through the walls, it really is tremendous.  There's just nothing else like it, is there?"

 

"Nothing at all"

 

"Nothing at all".


There is nothing quite like Le Mans and to watch the cars in daylight now from such a fantastic viewpoint, never experienced before in 11 years was mesmerising!


 

I stayed in the same place, surprised at the very small numbers of spectators who joined me from time to time in my lofty position above the track action.  I determined to take as many shots as I could of the cars leaving the pits, while at the same time trying to get a few good atmospheric shots of the surrounding area, with the grandstands and tribunes, slowly coming to life with the paper sellers from Le Maine plying their weary trade among the semi-comatose on the tribunes and in the grandstands.

 

The intention was to meet with Ian (and whoever decided to return to the circuit with him) at 8.00 am in the region of the Mercier champagne stall.  With some reluctance, I must admit, I headed back down to the ACO restaurant for yet another cup of coffee, before heading out into the Village to await the arrival of Ian and co.

 

Before doing so however, I had an important job to do.  Aside from picking up a few stickers here and there, I hadn't yet purchased anything to take home for Toby and James, so I headed up to the stalls on route to the Dunlop Chicane, to see what was on offer.  I had already seen some rather impressive black t-shirts, which I had a mind to buy.  Over the last three or four years, the t-shirts on sale at Le Mans have been very disappointing, and I hadn't bought one for myself since 1993.  Despite the fact that they depicted the Porsche GT1’s and Ferrari 333SPs from 1996 (the same picture as in the official poster advertising this year’s race), these t-shirts were very smart, and I managed to strike a very good deal to buy one each for myself, Jayne, Toby and James.  (I was actually quite surprised that the French stall-holder was so willing to haggle over the price!).

 

Just up from the t-shirt stall, I found another stall selling battery operated clocks at a very cheap and cheerful price (for Le Mans that is, all things are relative when one is talking about anything purchased at Le Circuit des Vingt Quatre Heures!).  I bought a clock each for the boys, again depicting the same cars as on the t-shirts and the official poster.  I have to say that I was quite chuffed with my purchases, being very much better than in previous years.

 

It was as I returned to the Village that I immediately bumped into the returning members of Gordons’ Tourists!  Ian had apparently come back to the circuit at about 7.30 am, bringing with him Martyn and Peter.  It came as no surprise to me to find that Jim, Alan and Jeff had stayed behind at Le Grand-Lucé for a lay-in.  Some things never change!  Of course, I was full of the news of my discovery in the ACO’s Welcome Area and so it was that we headed off to the ACO building to try and get Ian, Martyn and Peter some passes.  This proved to be no problem at all, and by 8.45 all four of us were enjoying the view!


 

Ian, Martyn and Peter were as impressed as I was with this new vantage point, Ian particularly, and the talk soon turned to making sure that we could take advantage of this facility again next year.  My suspicion is that the ACO will find a much larger take-up rate, particularly from the Brits, for this opportunity.  I for one have no doubt that, should I be lucky enough to get to Le Mans again in 1998, I will certainly want to continue my membership of the ACO.  The view from the lofty perch alone was well worth the cost of membership - better than a grandstand seat!

 

We finally climbed down (again rather reluctantly), at about 10.00 a.m., and the four of us headed off to the ACO restaurant for another injection of caffeine.  The restaurant had another added bonus, clean and very civilised toilet facilities! 


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